At a time when our world faces unprecedented challenges – in part, due to climate change, compounded by biodiversity loss and environmental degradation fuelling conflict and poverty – sustainable tourism has the potential to be part of the solution.
Encouraging tourism that focuses on conservation and community development is vital. Increasingly millennials have become champions of this travel movement, which is underpinned by a favourite, well-worn quote; "leave it better than you find it". They pursue the 'authentic' via local experiences, smaller communities and grassroots organisations that support sustainable practices.
Global initiative The Long Run was set up in 2009, to unite nature-based tourism businesses which offer exactly these kind of sought-after experiences, and support the businesses as they strive for excellence in sustainability, and provides a glimpse of the change that travellers can drive.
Today, The Long Run has over 35 member destinations around the globe, from Alaska to Argentina, and from Scotland to South Africa. All of them are committed to a journey of improvement which is assessed against The Long Run's rigorous '4C' framework, encompassing Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce which recognises that 4 pillars work together to achieve sustainability.
Members use their business as a vehicle to conserve nature, improve the lives of people, celebrate cultural differences. They also need to make profit to sustain the positive impacts that tourism can drive.
Cottar's safari camp - one of The Long Run's destinations
Members of The Long Run are re-shaping responsible tourism and they prove that the planet and profit can thrive together. Together, they protect 12 million acres (larger than the land mass of Switzerland) and help protect more than 30,000 wildlife species at a time when biodiversity is increasingly under threat. Last year the members invested over $10 million in conservation, and supported the lives of almost 210,000 people, many of whom are indigenous inhabitants of the landscapes and among the planet's most marginalised populations.
These pioneering businesses support and inspire each other to expand their positive impact even further, as well as influencing others to take up best practices.
All members of The Long Run strive to become recognised as Global Ecosphere Retreats (GER)®. The GER® standard is one of the most rigorous sustainability standards in the tourism industry and was granted recognition by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council in 2015. It is only awarded to organisations that demonstrate a holistic balance of the '4C's, excel in conserving nature and improve the wellbeing of the communities they belong to.
The Long Run was founded by former Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz and has quickly grown to become one of the world's largest nature based business led sustainable development initiatives.
"Our vision is that of a world in which business, nature and people are harmoniously working together for a sustainable future," Zeitz says. "The Long Run demonstrates what the private sector can achieve and the positive impact it can have on conservation and communities around the world. Society, and business especially, must embrace its responsibility towards the future of this planet.
Zeitz continued: "The Long Run leads change, ensuring that ecosystems are protected by leveraging the power of business. We must integrate sensitivity and respect for nature into our daily lives, with a committed focus to conservation of biodiversity, and identifying and minimising harmful impacts throughout supply chains."
As the future of tourism pushes to support more social, economic and environmental initiatives, one thing is clear: the future of sustainable travel has never looked brighter.
For more information visit www.thelongrun.com